I read Isaac Hooke's "Forever Gate" as part of a review exchange. He's reading my "A Mage's Power" right now. That's "Social Media Reciprocity" in action.
"Forever Gate" takes place in a fantasy setting that is NOT the medieval ages. It's actually 3740 A.D. but one could be forgiven for thinking it was somewhere in the 1000s. Hoodwink, the protagonist, thinks it's semantics. He's only interested in keeping someone important to him safe and this leads him from one dangerous situation to another.
The plot is fast paced. From execution to run from the law to secret society Revelations to climbing the Forever Gate. There's no time to catch your breath because this book has relentless energy. Hoodwink is always moving and getting in and out of close calls. Each chapter is a cliffhanger and it is a meaningful cliff hanger. It's not an instant tacked on thing meant to invoke cliffhanger. Even the final chapter ends in a cliffhanger and it includes a wham line. There's a preview for the second book and that also ends in a cliffhanger.With all the cliffhangers you may be wondering: does story ever resolve anything? The answer is complicated.
Courtesy SPOILER warning
Hoodwink's goal is to keep his daughter out of harm's way. He does this by taking her place for things like climbing the sky-high Forever Gate. At the end of the book he succeeds and is at peace with himself but the root cause that got him into trouble in the first place has not been touched. This is the first book so I don't mind because the initial 'save my daughter' conflict has been resolved. On the other hand, the final chapter's cliffhanger would have infuriated me if not for the second book's preview. It's a great place to stop, don't get me wrong, but it opens up a new can of worms. In my opinion, the second book preview works better as an epilogue and sequel hook than a genuine preview because it lets the reader know the results of Hoodwink's harrowing quest (providing closure) while at the same time setting up the next book.
Hoodwink is a great protagonist. He's an anti-hero without being dark and edgy. Instead he's a loving father that doesn't care about heroics. It's a rare breed; not original but rare. Another point in his favor is that he is not a teenager. You see those a lot in fantasy and they all say 'averarge kid' who is not at all average. This is an older married guy and there really is nothing special about him but then again he's not a bland audience surrogate.
Unfortunately, other characters have much less development but this can be attributed to their little screen time. In the first scene Hoodwink is running from the law and then he climbs a wall and then he crosses a desert. In other words, he spends much of the book alone with his thoughts. It's great for him but less so for the others. Ari, for instance, receives more character development in the preview for the second book then she does in the entirety of the first book. In the later her role is summed up in Hero's Muse, but interestingly, she is aware of this and exploits it. The only reason Hoodwink climbs the Forever Gate is because if he didn't she would and both of them know this would likely kill her.
The closest thing this series has to 'bad guys' are a similar case. They're called gols and they're artificial humans that run the city. Hoodwink thinks they're 'oppressors' but Leader points out that they are closer to 'despised but necessary public servants'. The latter is the one leading a resistance group against them, which begs the question: If they are not evil then why is he fighting them? Also, if he knows they are necessary and wants them to stay in power then why do the Gol think he is a terrorist? Current events have some answers but not all of them and without these questions the premise of the novel falls apart. Hoodwink's relationship troubles with his daughter have greater depth and are therefore more interesting.
Spelling and such are great but the grammar is distracting. As many as three sentences in a row will go something like 'Hoodwink x. And then y. But z." when they could all be one sentence. This is forgivable because they are most prevalent in Hoodwink's stream of consciousness and nobody thinks in perfect grammar. That would be weird. It's still distracting.
Trickster Eric Novels gives "Forever Gate 1" an A
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